Abstract

Many unfortunate and unintended adverse industrial incidents occur across the United States each year, and the nuclear industry is no exception. Depending on the severity, these incidents can be problematic for people, the facilities, and surrounding environments. These incidents occur for a number of varying reasons, but more often than not, human error is an accomplice. This article explores whether the complexity and changing technologies which affect the way operators interact within the systems of the nuclear facilities exacerbate the severity of incidents caused by human error. A review of nuclear incidents in the United States from 1955 through 2010 reaching Level 3 or higher on the INES scale was conducted. The cost of each incident at facilities that had recently undergone technological changes affecting plant operator's jobs were compared to those facilities which had not undergone changes. A t-test was applied and determined a statistically significant difference between the two groups. This affirmed that technological advances at nuclear facilities that affect how operators interact within the plant system increase the severity of resulting incidents. Next, a follow-on study was conducted to determine the impact from the incorporation of new technologies into nuclear facilities. The data indicated that spending more money on upgrades increased the capacity of the facility as well as the number of incidents reported, but the incident severity was minor.

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